Where did we go wrong?
“Self-perception is the most terrifying of all human observations. When a man faces himself he is looking into the abyss.” — Samuel Beckett
There is something to be said of what has brought us to this point of, what seems like, no return. A constant and at times convenient state of neglect. Neglect and compromise towards the values on which this country was made. While there is no need to drone on about age old, established facts as to the vision encapsulated by our great founder (by now we are acutely aware of them) it should be known that we have diluted these values to such a point that they have become the stuff of dreams. A utopian and, therefore, unattainable standard. We have grown so used to the slow but sure erosion of our political and religious tenets that today when due to suspension of mobile phone services, television blackouts, we are forced to look in the mirror and witness the scars of ugliness left behind due to constant neglect.
Our complicity in the culmination of the nightmare that was the past three days is glaringly obvious.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah successfully fought for this country for a section of society that was marginalised, discriminated against and oftentimes persecuted for their beliefs. After the birth of Pakistan, he handed us our faith to keep it safe and uphold its basic principles of truth and justice and to practice it in the sanctity of the individual being. He was sure that a community that had suffered such oppression would be a stalwart of tolerance. Fast forward a year and Pakistan stood bewildered, an orphan, a victim of politics, power struggles and short term solutions to problems that require long term policies. Soon the priorities set by the Quaid took a back seat to the wills and whims of politicians in various garbs. Like a moth attracted to a flame we began our long and obsessive love affair with fire. The very fire that is now spread as far as the eye can see. But how can we, the upper middle class, be blamed for this chaos? After all we’ve just ben minding our own business, not interfering in matters of state other then just ‘drawing room’ conversations. After all, who are we to make a difference, just a silent majority of privileged-mind-your-business individuals? So while we carried on living our lives, neglecting the early signs of invasion, a group of power hungry opportunists saw their chance.
Without waiting, they grabbed hold of whatever power they could. Like termites, they flourished on fertile land. They fed on an unemployed youth, a victim of unfortunate economic policies and raging nepotism in every department. They manufactured their own brand of opium for the masses: a contorted, violent and intolerant Islam. Just like that they stole the right of religion given to the individual and warped it in to a cruel, confrontational and polarising set of rules. A George W. Bush inspired, “with us or against us” concoction. These termites were left to their devices while our politicians greedily fought over power. Their mantra: individual first then country. Lots of eyewash, empty talk, greasy palms and money-making antics later, we fast forward again, to 2017.
Suddenly, we the educated upper class is jolted awake, the invaders are now at our door. The capital is besieged with bedraggled, some bearded, some clean shaven “mullahs” crying for blood of politicians. We are all painfully aware of the reasons why. After some days of hue and cry and destruction of livelihoods, they are satisfied with a ‘deal’ brokered by the powers that be and sent on their way. We take this alarming incident with a pinch of salt and brace ourselves for the next election, all the while promising that this won’t happen again, that they will fizzle out.
Lo and behold! This group of raggedy ‘mullahs’ are now registered as a legitimate political faction. Again, we insult our politicians for only caring about their personal gains and sending the country to hell. At the same time we console ourselves by saying that no religious party has ever gained much momentum in Pakistan. We brace ourselves for election year 2018 and get swept up in our very own concoction of opium: hope.
These termites were left to their devices while our politicians greedily fought over power. Their mantra: individual first then country
This time, it works! Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf wins and our jubilance is boundless. The glean and sheen of a bright new Pakistan is almost within our grasp. PM Imran Khan delivers a powerful speech that reminds all of us of another individual who spoke with the same earnest and honesty as our new PM – the Quaid. Light heartedly, we begin life again. A few bumps and bruises along the way, PTI’s government begins the monumental task of resuscitating the stagnant economy. We are in a forgiving mood. Some critique here and there in drawing rooms and restaurants but overall: let’s give them a chance is the mood of the season. As time passes, we applaud the newly active Supreme Court for raising the banner for the common man and for keeping the government on its toes. Finally, a check and balance seems to be developing, we tell ourselves.
Then on All Hallow’s Eve, 31st of October, a monumental decision is made public by the Supreme Court. The rule of law has been upheld and a landmark judgement is made. The full text of the judgement is nothing short of inspirational. A perfect synthesis of law and religion, both running parallel to each other. Before we have even started celebrating, the panic sets in. ‘Mullahs” emerge from every precipice of major cities. They begin with a sit in and as per standard operating procedure they start blocking thoroughfares. Then begins the hate speech. No one is spared from Judges, to law enforcement agencies, civil and military. Sensibly, the media blacks out this part.
Following the strongly worded, no nonsense speech of PM Khan we again clutch to a tiny glimmer of hope. His words are reinforced by the eloquent Shehryar Afridi in Parliament and the hope becomes more tangible. Then begins the looting and the destruction. While we are cooped up in our homes, the common man is trampled upon for three days straight, by this rabid breed of ‘mullahs’, motorcycles burnt, livelihoods destroyed, they search for evidence of the level of “aashiqui” of the Prophet (PBUH) prevalent in the man selling fruits from a cart, the worker waiting for his daily wage.
They cannot tear out the common man’s heart, even though they want to. That is God’s domain, but these mad ‘lovers’ are more then happy to do His job for Him. After torching countless vehicles, shops and blocking roads for ambulances their hunger seems have abated and while we watch in shock, our hope filled eyes are slashed blind as the government enters into a similar deal, late at night with a band of what may simply be defined as bandits.
Morning of day four is sad and sullen. The smog filled sky promises no more hope. There are no more statements, not from PM Khan, not from eloquent Mr Afridi and worst of all not from the judiciary. “Silence, in law, gives consent.” – Robert Fisk (The Age of the Warrior)
We sit in shock and left with just incredulous questions: When did we allow these people to flourish? Where did we go wrong? The answer to that, my dear friends, when we gave preference to the individual rather than the state, when we let go of our right to protest, when we became content to being the silent ‘majority’. God helps those who help themselves, is an oft told principle. It is also one of the many tenets of Islam that we tend to forget. As we sit and wait for another messiah, another ray of hope, after the past three days I have realised that maybe, just maybe, God really has forsaken us.